Sunday, December 20, 2009
Character Design 3: Layout Artist With Versatility, Conservatism, Style and Control
This drawing was not done by the designer, but it took design ability and drawing skill to do it. A lot!
All Ed gave the artists was this:
2 poses!The model sheet pack for Yogi Bear in 1958 was 2 pages high. As opposed to our 6 foot stacks of paper that we call models today and force hundreds of artists to strictly adhere to, no matter how stiff and ignorant the drawings are.
Even in 1965 there were still cartoonists who could really draw, that weren't abstracted specialists on an a broken assembly line. The last gasp before the hippies came.
Gene Hazelton (and the others who did these comics) were less specifically "character designers" than they were great draftsmen with style. They could draw just about anything - and from any angle. They didn't need all the poses and angles of the characters spelled out to them in model sheet packs.This is drawing functionally-drawing scenes on command. It requires more than raw talent or design sense. Yeah, these are very stylish and that's great - as a final topping to the strong compositions and solid drawing.I used to be impressed by fancy sketchbooks that young cartoonists showed me and have hired many cartoonists on that basis alone. I am more wary now. Even if you have raw talent, drawing one-eyed monsters and half naked girls floating in space is a far cry from being able to sit down and draw a careful scene of some event on purpose. ...That has very specific needs of staging, storytelling, continuity and a hundred other skills.
These panels are stylish yet very conservative at the same time. Conservative in the use of extreme self-control - in making the picture say what it's supposed to say and say it clearly and with finesse.
Granted, the stories aren't very funny or interesting, but then most comics and cartoons aren't. But if it was a funny story, artists like these would only make the story more powerful.
I could have the most talented sketchbook or Deviant Artist in the world working for me (and there are lots of them), but if he couldn't draw a folding chair in perspective on a beach he wouldn't be able to do this scene. He would sit and stare at the paper for days, or scribble madly hoping by some stroke of luck that a good looking picture might appear. I've seen it happen many times. Forcing some artists to be functional is just too much for them. They have been praised so long for their abstract sketchbook drawings, that controlling their pencils and forcing them to do something on purpose and on command is just too stressful and depressing.
Studios used to have a solution for this. They started beginners artists as assistants to already functional artists and they learned from the ground floor up. Now you gotta learn everything on your own and that's hard to do.
This above panel looks more like Iwao or Jerry Eisenberg than Hazelton, but who knows? All those guys could really draw.
Whether you like Hanna Barbera characters and their cartoons or not is besides the point. I am sure these artists could do anything I (or any other director) asked of them, and I could push them to be more exaggerated. Tex sure did.
These boxes are very slightly off-kilter, but only enough to make them cartoony and stylish, not enough to make them wonky or to confuse the viewer as to what positions they are inhabiting in space.
These layouts use all the principles and techniques I talk about. All the positive areas-the trees, the leaves, the characters are full of variety and interest-but they are all separated by spaces that are just as interestingly designed.
The poses are varied. They have lines of action and opposition to each other. They are asymmetrical, yet controlled and solid. This is an exercise of extreme balance. It takes an artist who is also a complex thinker to pull off layouts like this.
That's a nice down shot of the kid's head. It's not cheated like in modern cartoons where you just take a 3/4 head pose and tilt it down, making the character look like his neck is broken.
The spaces and the trees accentuate the exaggerated perspective of the ladder. The whole picture is designed, not just the character.
I love the shape of that mountain in the background. Its very subtle curves really make it seem huge and far away. The whole scene would be very difficult to draw, but Hazelton's flair makes it all look simple carefree and easy, like swimming with brand-name protection.
How many character designers can draw a solid simplified motorcycle?
Let alone in perspective.
Ranger Smith is sporting some fine bitch tits in this careful composition. This is surely Hazelton. You can tell by the cuteness of the mom and the kid. (How did Smith get such a hot wife?)
These trees and the composition really look like Eisenberg, but the characters don't. I'm confused about how they made these comics!
I always loved the title lettering in the HB comics. It was different and stylish every week. Nowadays, the marketing department demands that each show and character have an official trademarked title logo. Someone explain this oddity to me. Isn't variety more fun than stale sameness? Smells like lawyers ruining all the fun again.
These are definitely Hazelton kids. Drawing a running crowd and making everyone read clearly is not a simple task.
How many artists today would crap if the director came in and said "Draw a train in perspective screeching to a stop and partly coming off the rails."? I know I would! I'd make Vincent do it.
Anyway, I would trade a thousand "character designers" for 2 great layout artists with style. Hopefully someone out there can see why.
Thanks to Chris Lopez for digging up more great and rare treasures of cartoon art.